The Joyful Wisdom

Page 58 of 59


Great Healthiness.—We, the new, the nameless, the hard-to-understand, we firstlings of a yet untried future—we require for a new end also a new means, namely, a new healthiness, stronger, sharper, tougher, bolder and merrier than any healthiness hitherto. He whose soul longs to experience the whole range of hitherto recognised values and desirabilities, and to circumnavigate all the coasts of this ideal "Mediterranean Sea," who, from the adventures of his most personal experience, wants to know how it feels to be a conqueror and discoverer of the ideal—as likewise how it is with the artist, the saint, the legislator, the sage, the scholar, the devotee, the prophet, and the godly Nonconformist of the old style:—requires one thing above all for that purpose, great healthiness—such healthiness as one not only possesses, but also constantly acquires and must acquire, because one continually sacrifices it again, and must[Pg 352] sacrifice it!—And now, after having been long on the way in this fashion, we Argonauts of the ideal, who are more courageous perhaps than prudent, and often enough shipwrecked and brought to grief, nevertheless, as said above, healthier than people would like to admit, dangerously healthy, always healthy again,—it would seem, as if in recompense for it all, that we have a still undiscovered country before us, the boundaries of which no one has yet seen, a beyond to all countries and corners of the ideal known hitherto, a world so over-rich in the beautiful, the strange, the questionable, the frightful, and the divine, that our curiosity as well as our thirst for possession thereof, have got out of hand—alas! that nothing will now any longer satisfy us! How could we still be content with the man of the present day after such peeps, and with such a craving in our conscience and consciousness? What a pity; but it is unavoidable that we should look on the worthiest aims and hopes of the man of the present day with ill-concealed amusement, and perhaps should no longer look at them. Another ideal runs on before us, a strange, tempting ideal, full of danger, to which we should not like to persuade any one, because we do not so readily acknowledge any one's right thereto: the ideal of a spirit who plays navely (that is to say involuntarily and from overflowing abundance and power) with everything that has hitherto been called holy, good, inviolable, divine; to whom the loftiest conception which the people have reasonably made their measure of value, would already imply danger, ruin, abasement, or at least relaxation,[Pg 353] blindness, or temporary self-forgetfulness; the ideal of a humanly superhuman welfare and benevolence, which may often enough appear inhuman, for example, when put by the side of all past seriousness on earth, and in comparison with all past solemnities in bearing, word, tone, look, morality and pursuit, as their truest involuntary parody,—but with which, nevertheless, perhaps the great seriousness only commences, the proper interrogation mark is set up, the fate of the soul changes, the hour-hand moves, and tragedy begins....


Epilogue.—-But while I slowly, slowly finish the painting of this sombre interrogation-mark, and am still inclined to remind my readers of the virtues of right reading—oh, what forgotten and unknown virtues—it comes to pass that the wickedest, merriest, gnome-like laughter resounds around me: the spirits of my book themselves pounce upon me, pull me by the ears, and call me to order. "We cannot endure it any longer," they shout to me, "away, away with this raven-black music. Is it not clear morning round about us? And green, soft ground and turf, the domain of the dance? Was there ever a better hour in which to be joyful? Who will sing us a song, a morning song, so sunny, so light and so fledged that it will not scare the tantrums,—but will rather invite them to take part in the singing and dancing. And better a simple rustic bagpipe than such weird sounds, such toad-croakings, grave-voices and marmot-pipings, with which you have hitherto regaled us in your wilderness,[Pg 354] Mr Anchorite and Musician of the Future! No! Not such tones! But let us strike up something more agreeable and more joyful!"—You would like to have it so, my impatient friends? Well! Who would not willingly accede to your wishes? My bagpipe is waiting, and my voice also—it may sound a little hoarse; take it as it is! don't forget we are in the mountains! But what you will hear is at least new; and if you do not understand it, if you misunderstand the minstrel, what does it matter! That—has always been "The Minstrel's Curse."[4] So much the more distinctly can you hear his music and melody, so much the better also can you—dance to his piping. Would you like to do that?...

[4] Title of the well-known poem of Uhland.—TR.

[Pg 355]



[Pg 356]
[Pg 357]


"The Undecaying"
Is but thy label,
God the betraying
Is poets' fable.

Our aims all are thwarted
By the World-wheel's blind roll:
"Doom," says the downhearted,
"Sport," says the fool.

The World-sport, all-ruling,
Mingles false with true:
The Eternally Fooling
Makes us play, too!
[Pg 358]


As 'neath a shady tree I sat
After long toil to take my pleasure,
I heard a tapping "pit-a-pat"
Beat prettily in rhythmic measure.
Tho' first I scowled, my face set hard,
The sound at length my sense entrapping
Forced me to speak like any bard,
And keep true time unto the tapping.

As I made verses, never stopping,
Each syllable the bird went after,
Keeping in time with dainty hopping!
I burst into unmeasured laughter!
What, you a poet? You a poet?
Can your brains truly so addled be?
"Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,"
Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

What doth me to these woods entice?
The chance to give some thief a trouncing?
A saw, an image? Ha, in a trice
My rhyme is on it, swiftly pouncing!
All things that creep or crawl the poet
Weaves in his word-loom cunningly.
"Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,"
Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

Like to an arrow, methinks, a verse is,
See how it quivers, pricks and smarts
When shot full straight (no tender mercies!)
[Pg 359]Into the reptile's nobler parts!

Wretches, you die at the hand of the poet,
Or stagger like men that have drunk too free.
"Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,"
Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

So they go hurrying, stanzas malign,
Drunken words—what a clattering, banging!—
Till the whole company, line on line,
All on the rhythmic chain are hanging.
Has he really a cruel heart, your poet?
Are there fiends who rejoice, the slaughter to see
"Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,"
Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

So you jest at me, bird, with your scornful graces?
So sore indeed is the plight of my head?
And my heart, you say, in yet sorrier case is?
Beware! for my wrath is a thing to dread!
Yet e'en in the hour of his wrath the poet
Rhymes you and sings with the selfsame glee.
"Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,"
Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.


I swing on a bough, and rest
My tired limbs in a nest,
In the rocking home of a bird,
Wherein I perch as his guest,
[Pg 360]In the South!

I gaze on the ocean asleep,
On the purple sail of a boat;
On the harbour and tower steep,
On the rocks that stand out of the deep,
In the South!

For I could no longer stay,
To crawl in slow German way;
So I called to the birds, bade the wind
Lift me up and bear me away
To the South!

No reasons for me, if you please;
Their end is too dull and too plain;
But a pair of wings and a breeze,
With courage and health and ease,
And games that chase disease
From the South!

Wise thoughts can move without sound,
But I've songs that I can't sing alone;
So birdies, pray gather around,
And listen to what I have found
In the South!
.    .    .    .    .     .    .    .    .
"You are merry lovers and false and gay,
"In frolics and sport you pass the day;
"Whilst in the North, I shudder to say,
"I worshipped a woman, hideous and gray,
"Her name was Truth, so I heard them say,
"But I left her there and I flew away
"To the South!"
[Pg 361]


While beauty in my face is,
Be piety my care,
For God, you know, loves lasses,
And, more than all, the fair.
And if yon hapless monkling
Is fain with me to live,
Like many another monkling,
God surely will forgive.

No grey old priestly devil,
But, young, with cheeks aflame—
Who e'en when sick with revel,
Can jealous be and blame.
To greybeards I'm a stranger,
And he, too, hates the old:
Of God, the world-arranger,
The wisdom here behold!

The Church has ken of living,
And tests by heart and face.
To me she'll be forgiving!
Who will not show me grace?
I lisp with pretty halting,
I curtsey, bid "good day,"
And with the fresh defaulting
I wash the old away!

Praise be this man-God's guerdon,
Who loves all maidens fair,
And his own heart can pardon
[Pg 362]The sin he planted there.

While beauty in my face is,
With piety I'll stand,
When age has killed my graces,
Let Satan claim my hand!


Yester-eve, when all things slept—
Scarce a breeze to stir the lane—
I a restless vigil kept,
Nor from pillows sleep could gain,
Nor from poppies nor—most sure
Of opiates—a conscience pure.

Thoughts of rest I 'gan forswear,
Rose and walked along the strand,
Found, in warm and moonlit air,
Man and boat upon the sand,
Drowsy both, and drowsily
Did the boat put out to sea.

Passed an hour or two perchance,
Or a year? then thought and sense
Vanished in the engulfing trance
Of a vast Indifference.
Fathomless, abysses dread
Opened—then the vision fled.

Morning came: becalmed, the boat
Rested on the purple flood:
"What had happened?" every throat
Shrieked the question: "was there—
Naught had happened! On the swell
[Pg 363]We had slumbered, oh, so well!


(during which, however, the poet fell into a pit).

Oh marvel! there he flies
Cleaving the sky with wings unmoved—what force
Impels him, bids him rise,
What curb restrains him? Where's his goal, his course?

Like stars and time eterne
He liveth now in heights that life forswore,
Nor envy's self doth spurn:
A lofty flight were't, e'en to see him soar!

Oh albatross, great bird,
Speeding me upward ever through the blue!
I thought of her, was stirred
To tears unending—yea, I love her true!


Here I lie, my bowels sore,
Hosts of bugs advancing,
Yonder lights and romp and roar!
What's that sound? They're dancing!

At this instant, so she prated,
Stealthily she'd meet me:
Like a faithful dog I've waited,
Not a sign to greet me!

She promised, made the cross-sign, too,
Could her vows be hollow?
Or runs she after all that woo,
[Pg 364]Like the goats I follow?

Whence your silken gown, my maid?
Ah, you'd fain be haughty,
Yet perchance you've proved a jade
With some satyr naughty!

Waiting long, the lovelorn wight
Is filled with rage and poison:
Even so on sultry night
Toadstools grow in foison.

Pinching sore, in devil's mood,
Love doth plague my crupper:
Truly I can eat no food:
Farewell, onion-supper!

Seaward sinks the moon away,
The stars are wan, and flare not:
Dawn approaches, gloomy, grey,
Let Death come! I care not!


Souls that lack determination
Rouse my wrath to white-hot flame!
All their glory's but vexation,
All their praise but self-contempt and shame!

Since I baffle their advances,
Will not clutch their leading-string,
They would wither me with glances
Bitter-sweet, with hopeless envy sting.

Let them with fell curses shiver,
Curl their lip the livelong day!
Seek me as they will, forever
[Pg 365]Helplessly their eyes shall go astray!


Ah, what I wrote on board and wall
With foolish heart, in foolish scrawl,
I meant but for their decoration!

Yet say you, "Fools' abomination!
Both board and wall require purgation,
And let no trace our eyes appal!"

Well, I will help you, as I can,
For sponge and broom are my vocation
As critic and as waterman.

But when the finished work I scan,
I'm glad to see each learned owl
With "wisdom" board and wall defoul.


(or a Consolation to Sick Poets).

From thy moist lips,
O Time, thou witch, beslavering me,
Hour upon hour too slowly drips
In vain—I cry, in frenzy's fit,
"A curse upon that yawning pit,
A curse upon Eternity!"

The world's of brass,
A fiery bullock, deaf to wail:
Pain's dagger pierces my cuirass,
Wingd, and writes upon my bone:
"Bowels and heart the world hath none,
[Pg 366]Why scourge her sins with anger's flail?"

Pour poppies now,
Pour venom, Fever, on my brain!
Too long you test my hand and brow:
What ask you? "What—reward is paid?"
A malediction on you, jade,
And your disdain!

No, I retract,
'Tis cold—I hear the rain importune—
Fever, I'll soften, show my tact:
Here's gold—a coin—see it gleam!
Shall I with blessings on you beam,
Call you "good fortune"?

The door opes wide,
And raindrops on my bed are scattered,
The light's blown out—woes multiplied!
He that hath not an hundred rhymes,
I'll wager, in these dolorous times
We'd see him shattered!


Once more, St Mark, thy pigeons meet my gaze,
The Square lies still, in slumbering morning mood:
In soft, cool air I fashion idle lays,
Speeding them skyward like a pigeon's brood:
And then recall my minions
To tie fresh rhymes upon their willing pinions.
My bliss! My bliss!

Calm heavenly roof of azure silkiness,
Guarding with shimmering haze yon house divine!
[Pg 367]Thee, house, I love, fear—envy, I'll confess,
And gladly would suck out that soul of thine!
"Should I give back the prize?"
Ask not, great pasture-ground for human eyes!
My bliss! My bliss!

Stern belfry, rising as with lion's leap
Sheer from the soil in easy victory,
That fill'st the Square with peal resounding, deep
Wert thou in French that Square's "accent aigu"?
Were I for ages set
In earth like thee, I know what silk-meshed net——
My bliss! My bliss!

Hence, music! First let darker shadows come,
And grow, and merge into brown, mellow night!
Tis early for your pealing, ere the dome
Sparkle in roseate glory, gold-bedight
While yet 'tis day, there's time
For strolling, lonely muttering, forging rhyme—
My bliss! My bliss!


Thither I'll travel, that's my notion,
I'll trust myself, my grip,
Where opens wide and blue the ocean
I'll ply my Genoa ship.

New things on new the world unfolds me,
Time, space with noonday die:
Alone thy monstrous eye beholds me,
[Pg 368]Awful Infinity!


Here sat I waiting, waiting, but for naught!
Beyond all good and evil—now by light wrought

To joy, now by dark shadows—all was leisure,
All lake, all noon, all time sans aim, sans measure.

Then one, dear friend, was swiftly changed to twain,
And Zarathustra left my teeming brain....


Wildly rushing, clouds outleaping,
Care-destroying, Heaven sweeping,
Mistral wind, thou art my friend!
Surely 'twas one womb did bear us,
Surely 'twas one fate did pair us,
Fellows for a common end.

From the crags I gaily greet you,
Running fast I come to meet you,
Dancing while you pipe and sing.
How you bound across the ocean,
Unimpeded, free in motion,
[Pg 369]Swifter than with boat or wing!

Through my dreams your whistle sounded,
Down the rocky stairs I bounded
To the golden ocean wall;
Saw you hasten, swift and glorious,
Like a river, strong, victorious,
Tumbling in a waterfall.

Saw you rushing over Heaven,
With your steeds so wildly driven,
Saw the car in which you flew;
Saw the lash that wheeled and quivered,
While the hand that held it shivered,
Urging on the steeds anew.

Saw you from your chariot swinging,
So that swifter downward springing
Like an arrow you might go
Straight into the deep abysses,
As a sunbeam falls and kisses
Roses in the morning glow.

Dance, oh! dance on all the edges,
Wave-crests, cliffs and mountain ledges,
Ever finding dances new!
Let our knowledge be our gladness,
Let our art be sport and madness,
All that's joyful shall be true!

Let us snatch from every bower,
As we pass, the fairest flower,
With some leaves to make a crown;
Then, like minstrels gaily dancing,
Saint and witch together prancing,
[Pg 370]Let us foot it up and down.

Those who come must move as; quickly
As the wind—we'll have no sickly,
Crippled, withered, in our crew.;
Off with hypocrites and preachers,
Proper folk and prosy teachers,
Sweep them from our heaven blue.

Sweep away all sad grimaces,
Whirl the dust into the faces
Of the dismal sick and cold!
Hunt them from our breezy places,
Not for them the wind that braces,
But for men of visage bold.

Off with those who spoil earth's gladness,
Blow away all clouds of sadness,
Till our heaven clear we see;
Let me hold thy hand, best fellow,
Till my joy like tempest bellow!
Freest thou of spirits free!

When thou partest, take a token
Of the joy thou hast awoken,
Take our wreath and fling it far;
Toss it up and catch it never,
Whirl it on before thee ever,
Till it reach the farthest star.

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